Project Warlock – Review

Do you remember DooM? You should. After all, it came out 25 years ago and, in these days, half the Internet is celebrating the anniversary waiting for John Carmack, his now legendary programmer, to release Sigil, a package of additional levels written for the occasion. DooM was a sort of watershed for the world of video games, the title that more than any other contributed to revolutionizing the paradigms of shooters, moving the view from 2D to the first person (better than the predecessor Wolfenstein 3D) and introducing a whole series of innovations that we now take for granted, such as netplay. Like all the beginnings, however, DooM also had its ingenuity, first of all a simple and very linear game scheme, where it was necessary to do substantially two things: look for the exit of the level (and eventually the keys to open it) and reach it after “frying” everything that moves on the screen.

BLESSED “IGNORANCE”

Carmack’s game gave birth to the FPS genre and inspired dozens, hundreds of games to follow. There is no first-person shooter that does not pay alien, in some way, to this brilliant precursor. However, as rightly happens with everything, even the FPS genre has evolved and refined over time, from the technical point of view and in terms of script complexity and gameplay, giving rise to a whole series of “branches” that go from the tactician to the eSport, from the mingling with the puzzles to the “ignorant shooter” of the old days, those in which it was enough to precisely shoot and carefully avoid enemy attacks to continue. Project Warlock stands halfway between the latter and a role play since we can make our protagonist evolve by spending all the experience we accumulate in increasing different abilities.

HOMAGE TO THE PAST, BUT NOT ONLY

Graphically speaking, Project Warlock can be considered the shooter equivalent of that point and click graphic adventures that, despite being programmed today, prefer to keep a pixel art graphic at unusual resolutions like 640 × 400 or even 320 × 200 points. Its author, 19-year-old Jakub Cislo, used the 3D Unity engine trying to reproduce the same behavior as the historic Doom Engine of iD Software, or its direct competitor BUILD of Apogee, engines that actually started with two-dimensional information to create the world of play.

19-YEAR-OLD JAKUB CISLO USED THE UNITY 3D ENGINE TRYING TO REPRODUCE THE SAME BEHAVIOR AS THE HISTORIC DOOM ENGINE OF ID SOFTWARE

Not only that, to make the tribute to the past more “realistic”, it also deliberately chose to use grainy textures, cubed characters, animations at the minimum wage of the frames, emphasizing as much as possible what we would later call aliasing. We must thus face monsters that always present themselves in the same place, always in the same way, always using the same attack strategies that, naturally, we must learn little by little to get out alive. And if all this “old stuff” was not enough to make the vintage maniac in us crying with nostalgia, among the graphics options there is one that allows you to use pixel shaders to add effects like the palette of Commodore 64 and the Spectrum (as well as a plethora of old 8-bit systems), or terrifying scanlines in motion, as seen only with the worst VHS video recorders.

WE SHOULD BE BORN!

Project Warlock is, therefore, a game of 2018 that pretends to be 1993. To face it we must recover all the ingenuity and all the patients we were endowed 25 years ago and, for the youngest, the challenge could be a compelling novelty.

THE MOST FASCINATING ASPECT OF THIS GAME IS THE AGE OF ITS DEVELOPER

But the most fascinating aspect of this game is precisely the age of its developer, significantly lower than that of the cornerstones from which it has drawn inspiration: it is decidedly obtuse to observe the analytical capacity with which Jakub Cislo has faced, studied, assimilated and synthesized, without having been able to walk the evolutionary path that led to their conception in the Nineties. It is a bit like a young 20-year-old director trying his hand in the remake of a 1919 film, trying to reproduce – with today’s machines and knowledge – the results of techniques and machinery that were used at that time. And the beauty is that this strange operation has had a resounding success: Project Warlock’s a frustrating but compelling game, old but new, “ignorant” but reasoned and, above all, cheap but fun!

To the face of all the historical evolution of shooters, without paying any attention to the softness of today and without a shred of plot or motivation behind it, Project Warlock takes us back to childhood like that with all its load of rambism, of ultraviolence, of festering splatter explosions, but adding a touch of modernity with the possibility of evolving one’s avatar. The operation is successful: the game is immediate and fun, damn challenging but able to provoke the famous “one more game and then enough” syndrome with which many of us, in the 1980s, became impoverished by hunting coins inside the coin op. It costs only 12 euros and nothing more, you want to leave it there!?